Monday, 22 February 2016

The Seven Heavenly Gay Virtues : Being Patient

Last year I did a series of articles entitled “The 7 Deadly Gay Sins”. I’m following that up with this first article is a new series called “The 7 Heavenly Gay Virtues”. I’m using the word “heavenly” to denote a sense of goodness and morality as opposed to any specific religious sense. After all, you don’t need to believe in any god to be a good person with admirable virtues.

First of all, a very brief history of the Seven Virtues of traditional belief. All faiths have virtues to which worshippers practice. Aristotle and Plato came up with four which were adopted by the Christians as the Four Cardinal Virtues. To this they added Faith, Hope and Charity from the New Testament. By the 5th century all seven of these were grouped together as opposing qualities to the Seven Deadly Sins.

Each of the Virtues has an opposing Sin. As illustrated in my series of articles last year all of the Sins were assigned colours, six of which appear on the Rainbow Pride flag. I’m going to take each of the Seven Virtues just as I did with the Sins and build up a Virtuous Pride flag. Its all just a bit of fun and shouldn’t be taken too seriously, though some of the actual Virtues have very serious aspects.

So, what’s first? The red stripe at the top of the Pride flag represented the Deadly Sin of Anger. The opposite or absence of Anger is Patience. Patience sums up all of the progresses that various disenfranchised or persecuted communities have endured from time immemorial.

The lgbt community has been very patient and has waited many centuries to become accepted as equal members in society. There’s still a very long way to go before full equality reaches the global lgbt community. If studying history has taught me anything it’s that change has never come quickly.

There are qualities which the Medieval world associated with Patience. One of these is resilience. I want to quote here from an article published by Huffpost Queer Voices (then known as Huffpost Gay Voices) last year. The words are by Swami Varadan, the host of a Californian programme called “The Urban Turban Show”. The title of his article is “3 Lessons the LGBT Community Has Taught Me”. Number 1 on his list is Patience, He writes :

“They say that Patience is a Virtue. Imagine not being able to marry someone what you love? Imagine not getting the same tax benefits as your straight friends? Imagine if your lover was in the hospital but you didn’t have the ‘right’ to go se them? This is what my LGBT friends dealt with over and over again. Patience is what they learned and taught me. If you want something in life you have to have Patience. You have to have Patience during times when you want to quit...”

Another quality given to Patience is sufferance. The plight of many lgbt victims of discrimination and persecution show a great deal of sufferance with dignity. The instances of online bullying has created a destructive presence in the lgbt community. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve put into my lgbt index who committed suicide because of the online bullying they received. A response to this distressing fact was the creation of the “It Gets Better” campaign.

“It Gets Better” was created in 2010 is response to the suicides of several teenagers in a short period in the US who had been bullied because of their sexuality. The main message behind the campaign is that all the problems of bullying disappear as soon as time goes on. In the real world, however, bullying doesn’t disappear, it just goes by a different name and find a different reason to bully. And the lgbt community is not innocent of bullying members of its own community.

Here I must offer my own personal perspective. I’ve been an out gay man since 1997. In the years since then I have lived through periods when various UK governments have passed what have been regarded as anti-gay laws. Yet, none of these have actually had any direct negative effect on my life as a gay man. True, I have received homophobic abuse and taunts, but they are not what have hurt or upset me the most.

What has upset me are comments and attitudes (and, yes, anger verging on hate speech) from members of the lgbt community to my personal beliefs and politics. At Nottinghamshire Pride last July I was bombarded with propaganda and criticism expressed to me for not being one of the “atheist left-wing” majority that I left not long after the march ended. I felt abused, and depressed that the community to which I belong was rejecting me. I suppose I lacked the resilience that is associated with Patience. And it’s not the first time it happened. It’s happening in other places as well. Even London Pride has declared that its 2016 event will ban certain lgbt political and religious groups just because the people organising don't agree with their politics or faith.

My own experiences are not common but neither are they unique. The virtue of Patience applies to all aspects of our lives. I hope that I always display a degree of Patience with those who disagree with my views and never resort to Anger to counter it.

To finish let’s have our first look at the Virtuous Pride flag. Red is the symbol of Anger, so it’s opposing virtue of Patience is red also.
Next time we look at the Virtue that opposes the Sin of Gluttony.

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